The evolution of Kensington Mews houses

This second blog from Anthony Walker, Chair of Edwardes Square Scarsdale and Abingdon Association (ESSA) explores the history and current uses of Kensington mews houses as well as the redevelopment of Avon House in W8.

Many mews houses in London have their origins as stabling for the grand houses nearby. Unlike the older mews developments in Bloomsbury, groups of mews buildings in the ESSA area in Kensington were not related directly to larger houses. Some may have provided stabling for nearby residents but in the Survey of London it is stated that:

‘Stabling built after 1880, like Adam and Eve Mews next to Kensington High Street, was commonly sited with an eye to industrial or commercial use. The new flat-dwellers who crowded into the district after 1885 had no need for their own stables. If road transport were required, hansom cabs, omnibuses or, on occasion, a private carriage hired from a livery stable, could supply their want. For daily purposes they travelled by train.’

Kensington mews houses - Lexham Mews

Lexham Mews in Kensington

Preserving the character of Kensington Mews houses

The groups of Kensington mews houses do therefore have a distinctive character, not least in their form, which makes use of often irregular, ‘left-over’ spaces. They are not part of the larger character area as in Bedford Square in Bloomsbury, but they do stand-alone as examples of a distinctive building type to be preserved.

Avon House in Kensington

CGI of the re-developed Avon House in Kensington

It should be noted that the main mews houses in the ESSA area, Lexham, Radley and Adam and Eve, still contain a number of small business units at street level. We regard it as important that these uses be retained to bring life and vitality to the area as well as maintaining the unique character of the traditional mews. This has of course been particularly challenging during the recent period of rapidly rising residential values. The practice of moving the commercial space to below ground level, as in the case of a recent development in Lexham Mews, results in a loss of the desirable features of activity at ground level

Avon House Redevelopment in Kensington

While most of the ESSA area involves residential development of various sorts with ranges of shops both small and large, there are also other uses to be considered such as medical and social. An interesting case is Avon House which is situated between the grade II listed Kensington United Reform Church and the back of Abingdon Mansions. The present building is of no architectural significance and was most recently used as a care home. It has been empty for a year or more. The owners have been consulting local residents and will be running a wider consultation at the beginning of December. The scale of the proposed building, designed by John Simpson Architects fits in well with its surroundings and will provide accommodation for a Neurological Clinic with both short-term residential accommodation and outpatient facilities. We believe that this could provide a positive service to the community although it does need an additional basement. Do go to see the display and plans, which will be open to the public at Avon House on the 1st and 2nd December.

Anthony Walker – Chairman, ESSA

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